By Ralph Sidway, guest contributor
For Orthodox and Coptic Christians, Easter falls on May 5 this year. That means we celebrate Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, April 28, and the whole following week, called Holy Week or Passion Week, leads to Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial. Without minimizing or shying away from Christ’s horrific sufferings, the Orthodox services offer poetically beautiful and moving hymns in praise of Christ and the means of His sacrifice for our salvation: the “Precious and Life-Giving Cross.”
For some profound reflections on the Cross, you may wish to go here or here. (There are of course many superb resources on numerous Orthodox websites.) What I would like to concentrate on instead is the practice of Crucifixion itself.
In one of the meditations on the Cross linked to above, the author provides this excerpt from Martin Hengel’s book, Crucifixion:
Crucifixion satisfied the primitive lust for revenge and the sadistic cruelty of individual rulers and of the masses. It was usually associated with other forms of torture, including at least flogging. At relatively small expense and to great public effect the criminal could be tortured to death for days in an unspeakable way. Crucifixion is thus a specific expression of the inhumanity dormant within men which these days is expressed, for example, in the call for the death penalty, for popular justice and for harsher treatment of criminals, as an expression of retribution. It is a manifestation of trans-subjective evil,a form of execution which manifests the demonic character of human cruelty and bestiality. (p. 87)
It is all too common to view the practice of crucifixion as a form of torture and execution from antiquity which hasn’t been used in nearly two millennia, yet this is hardly the case. In fact, crucifixion is a standard means of execution in Saudi Arabia, and there is a growing movement among Islamists to bring back crucifixion as the preferred means of punishment for a variety of crimes, including apostasy from Islam, “fitna,” which is a pliable term which can refer to unbelief or mischief-making, or anything which goes against Islam and Shariah. This is explicitly taught in the Qur’an:
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this: that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off… (Qur’an 5:33).
Ominously for Christians, strongly associated with fitna is “shirk,” the associating of partners with Allah. Believing Jesus to be the Son of God is, for Muslims, one of the worst forms of shirk, and is therefore punishable by death, including crucifixion. (There is a dark irony here, as Muslims do not believe Jesus was crucified, yet they prescribe crucifixion as punishment for Christians.)
And fight them until there is no fitna and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do. (Qur’an 8:39)
In one of the authorized hadiths, Muhammad himself said:
“I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah” (Sahih Muslim 30).
Obviously, if Muslims take these open-ended commands from the Qur’an and the hadiths seriously, their fight against fitna — and against Christians — could go on for a very long time indeed. It certainly seems to be increasing in intensity, as attested by reports from Islamic countries, some highlights of which are referenced below.
Sometimes, the zealous Islamists get a little too excited, and have a hard time prioritizing between crucifixion and beheading, one of Islam’s other favorite forms of execution, as in this recent story out of Saudi Arabia, where a man convicted of murder was beheaded first, then crucified. Obviously, he didn’t suffer from the crucifixion at all. Perhaps it was done as a crime deterrent.
Lately, the Saudis seem to be showing signs of restraint and moderation, having recently delayed the executions of seven men sentenced to death by crucifixion.
In August and September 2012, reports from multiple media agencies in Egypt pointed to Muslim Brotherhood operatives crucifying opponents of Egypt’s MB president Muhammad Morsi. There were charges of “hoax” which were repudiated by Raymond Ibrahim, who also cited video footage of an Islamic crucifixion of a man in Yemen.
In 2008, reports out of Iraq of atrocities committed against Christians included accounts of children as young as 10 years old being crucified.
Nomikos Michael Vaporis, in his landmark book, Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860, includes crucifixion as one of the many forms of execution used by the Muslim Turks, although most martyrdoms during the Ottoman oppression seem to have been performed by beheadings.
The horrific black and white image below is of a row of at least eight Armenians crucified during the 1915 genocide perpetrated by the Muslim Turks.
At this point I believe it is worth repeating portions of the quote from Martin Hengel’s book, Crucifixion:
Crucifixion satisfied the primitive lust for revenge and the sadistic cruelty of individual rulers and of the masses… Crucifixion is thus a specific expression of the inhumanity dormant within men… It is a manifestation of… evil, a form of execution which manifests the demonic character of human cruelty and bestiality. (p. 87)
For emphasis, let’s look at this in list form:
- lust for revenge,
Yet crucifixion is one of the top two explicit forms of execution mandated in the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an itself, as well as in the life and words of Muhammad. And this is being mandated and practiced increasingly today both by official courts in Islamic countries, as well as by Muslim mobs in Egypt and elsewhere.
And our government is sending our taxpayer dollars to the people who perform these atrocities.
The persecuted Christians in the Islamic world, as they prepare to commemorate the Crucifixion of their Lord Jesus Christ, must feel, in their heart of hearts, as if they are ascending their own Golgotha. Like Jesus, they may also feel abandoned and terribly alone.
President Obama may not have personally ordered their crucifixions like Pontius Pilate did in his day, but by shoveling more and more aid to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government, the Syrian Jihadi Rebels, Al Qaeda in Libya, and assorted other Islamist groups, Obama shows himself to be the Great Enabler of a Christian Genocide unfolding before our very eyes:
“And seeing he could not prevail, but that a tumult was rising, [Obama] took water and washed his hands before the [Islamic countries] saying, “I am innocent of the blood of [these people], you see to it.” And the [Muslims] answered and said, “[Their] blood be on us and on our children!” (Adapted from Matthew 27:24-25)
Let us pray there is a resurrection to follow this time of darkness we are living through.
Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.